NorthLink Ferries

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NorthLink Ferries
Type Public
Industry Transport
Founded 2002 (NorthLink Orkney and Shetland Ferries)
2006 (NorthLink Ferries)
2012 (Serco NorthLink Ferries)
Headquarters Stromness, Orkney, Scotland. Offices in Aberdeen & Lerwick
Area served Pentland Firth, Orkney and Shetland
Key people Stuart Garrett (Managing Director)
Services Ferries
Parent Serco Group
Website http://www.northlinkferries.co.uk
Hrossey leaving Kirkwall

NorthLink Ferries (also referred to as Serco NorthLink Ferries[1]) is an operator of passenger and vehicle ferries, as well as ferry services, between mainland Scotland and the Northern Isles of Orkney and Shetland. Since July 2012, it has been operated by international services company Serco Group.

History[edit]

NorthLink Ferries logo used from 2002-2013

NorthLink Orkney and Shetland Ferries[edit]

The subsidised Northern Isles ferry services, previously run by P&O Scottish Ferries, were put out to tender in 1999. A joint venture between Caledonian MacBrayne and RBS Group, named NorthLink Orkney and Shetland Ferries, won the contract and began operation in October 2002.

A variety of factors, including competition from rival operator Pentland Ferries, the Norse Island Ferries group created by local hauliers concerned about NorthLink's proposed freight pricing, and higher-than-expected operation costs,[2] contributed to financial difficulties within the company. In response, the Scottish Executive Transport Group (now Transport Scotland) made additional subsidy payments of £0.6 million and agreed to restructure subsidy payment timing.[2]

In mid-2003 the company indicated that it would be unlikely to complete its contract due to the financial difficulties. NorthLink defaulted on its lease payments for the vessels in July and August 2003,[2] and in April 2004 the Scottish Executive announced that the service would be re-tendered due to NorthLink's inability to fulfil the terms of the contract.

The company continued to operate under interim arrangements until April 2006 while a new contract was secured.

NorthLink Ferries Ltd[edit]

On 19 July 2005, the Scottish Executive announced that three companies - V-Ships, Irish Continental Ferries and Caledonian MacBrayne - had bid to provide ferry services to the Northern Isles. Irish Continental, however, withdrew its bid in October 2005, leaving two potential operators on the closing date of 1 December 2005. Both of the remaining bids complied with the contract requirements, but Caledonian MacBrayne's lower bid meant it was awarded the contract.

Caledonian MacBrayne formed a company named NorthLink Ferries Ltd, which adopted the branding and vessels of its predecessor, and began operating the Northern Isles ferry services on 6 July 2006.[3]

Serco NorthLink Ferries[edit]

The Northern Isles ferry service was re-tendered in 2011/12 as NorthLink Ferries Ltd's contract came to an end.

Initially, the contract's two services (Aberdeen-Lerwick and Scrabster-Stromness) were to be de-bundled. Eligible bids for the services were received from Pentland Ferries (which expressed interest in the Scrabster-Stromness service only), Sea-Cargo A/S (which expressed interest in the Aberdeen-Lerwick service only), P&O Ferries, Shetland Line (1984) Ltd (part of local haulage and freight company Streamline Shipping Group), Serco Group, and the incumbent NorthLink Ferries Ltd.[4] The Scottish Government subsequently re-bundled the routes, when insufficient interest was shown in the separate routes.[citation needed]

On 4 May 2012, Transport Scotland announced that Serco Group was the preferred bidder.[5] This decision was legally challenged in the Court of Session by rival bidder Shetland Line (1984) Limited on the basis that the Scottish Government had allegedly not taken into account that their proposed service scored higher in a quality test than Serco Ltd - suspending the securement of the contract.[6] However, on 29 May 2012, the court overturned the suspension and Serco Limited was confirmed as the new operator, ending Caledonian MacBrayne's 10 years of involvement with Northern Isles ferry services.[7][8]

Serco Group, using the vessels and branding of its predecessor, began operation of Northern Isles ferry services at 15:00 on 5 July 2012.[9] It has stated that it plans to make no changes to fares or timetables for the remainder of 2012, and that it plans to "overhaul catering, seating and onboard entertainment".[10]

Services[edit]

Map of ferry services in Scotland

NorthLink operates two passenger routes:

Fleet[edit]

Currently the NorthLink fleet consists of:

Former fleet consists of:

Ferries on the Aberdeen route have onboard cinemas and occasional live entertainment.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Serco Sets Sail". Serco Group plc. 2012-07-05. Retrieved 24 July 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c "Scottish Executive: The NorthLink ferry services contract" (pdf). Audit Scotland. December 2005. Retrieved 2012-07-24. 
  3. ^ Alan Rehfisch (2007). "Ferry Services in Scotland" (pdf). SPICe Briefing. Scottish Parliament Information Centre. Retrieved 2012-07-24. 
  4. ^ "Shortlist announced for Northern Isles Ferry Services contract". Transport Scotland. 2011-11-28. Retrieved 6 July 2012. 
  5. ^ "New Ferry Contract set for Northern Isles". Transport Scotland. 2012-05-04. Retrieved 6 July 2012. 
  6. ^ "Serco ferry contract on hold after legal challenge". The Orcadian. 2012-05-14. Retrieved 24 July 2012. 
  7. ^ "Serco confirmed as Northern Isles ferry operator". The Orcadian. 2012-05-29. Retrieved 24 July 2012. 
  8. ^ Shetland Line (1984) Limited v. Scottish Ministers [2012] CSOH 99 (29 May 2012), Court of Session (Scotland)
  9. ^ "Serco Sets Sail - NorthLink Ferries Service Handover Complete". NorthLink Ferries. 5 July 2012. Retrieved 6 July 2012. 
  10. ^ "Our Plans". Serco Group plc. Retrieved 24 July 2012. 

External links[edit]